Branding is so much more than simply placing a print ad, TV spot or digital campaign. It’s also why many small and mid-sized businesses struggle to find success with their self-promotion. Branding is one of the fundamental building blocks of good marketing, developing the tone, voice and positioning for a company and using it as the springboard to launch different initiatives and strategies throughout your organization.
Heide Edgington is JFG’s director of brand strategy, and has a wealth of knowledge and insights when it comes to the importance and value of branding for any type of organization. Here are some of her thoughts and tips on understanding branding and why it’s so critical to successfully promote any group or business.
What Does ‘Branding’ Mean to You?
HE: Most clients that we work with already have some elements of their brand developed, such as a company name, logo and even some marketing materials. However, they may not be thinking of themselves as a “brand,” and we help them to do that. We look to identify key components of the branding, including the purpose, promise, personality traits and assets. This brand discovery process can sometimes be difficult and it takes time to complete, but is critical to the success of any marketing program. Once we’ve defined and developed the overarching branding message, we can then come up with a strategy to get the right message to the right person at the right time.
Why Does Branding Matter?
HE: While it may seem intangible, your brand is one of your company’s most valuable assets. Branding is important because it sets you apart from your competition and gives your customer a reason to buy from you. Consistent, strategic branding leads to strong brand equity. Your brand is the promise you make to your customer. Your branding tells your story and why you are in business. It defines what you stand for and tells customers what they can expect when they do business with you. Customers form an emotional attachment to your brand and form perceptions that go along with that. Branding is what works to establish that story.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Recognized Brand?
HE: Awareness is at the top of the marketing funnel, so making prospective customers aware of your brand – who you are and what you do – is the first step in promoting your products or services. If you have a strong brand, you already have a relationship with your customers. They will have preconceived notions about your company based on that relationship and what it means – from your reputation to the quality of what you deliver and even your values.
There are many benefits to being recognized as a brand, including customer loyalty, enhanced credibility, increased sales, leads and referrals, the ability to command higher prices in the marketplace and, finally, a competitive edge over lesser-known brands.
How Do You Control Your Brand Message?
HE: There are some aspects you directly control, such as your signage, your advertising and your corporate colors. But there are things you can’t, such as what others say about you in social media and through word of mouth. What you can do, however, is listen and engage while being true to your brand, especially if addressing issues or complaints. How you handle these challenges can make or break the relationship you are building with current and prospective customers. With customer service being more public than ever before with review sites and social media platforms, buyers can form an opinion of you based on how you handle criticism and complaints before they’ve ever picked up the phone or set foot in your store.
What Goes into Developing a Brand or a Brand Strategy?
HE: At JFG, we use our “Brand Fitz” process to help our clients meet their goals. With Brand Fitz, we can ensure that every element of the brand is grounded in research and built into a sound strategy. It all starts with research. We need to understand the marketplace and the competition, but most importantly the prospective customer. We need to know what motivates them, influences them, and how they make their purchasing decisions. We need to uncover the key consumer insights that will drive their behavior so we can craft a brand personality and messaging that will resonate with them and ultimately drive them to take action and do business with your organization.
How Do You Define a Brand Personality?
HE: This is one of those things that companies always seem to struggle with. I always start the conversation by asking for terms that describe their brand as if their brand was a person. That means not using the tired old terms that companies always want to use – “dedicated to quality” or “innovative.” You wouldn’t say that about a person, so don’t say it about your brand. Instead, I work to get them to use words like “fun” or “expert” or “confident” – words that can help set the tone of how written and spoken brand messaging should be conveyed and help develop the personality for the brand. This is also a great creative thinking exercise that can help them see their brand from a different perspective and open their eyes to the mindset they need to be in to work on building an effective branding campaign.
What Is the Most Important Thing About Implementing an Effective Branding Campaign?
HE: There are two things that stand out as critical for an effective branding campaign. First, you have to be authentic. Your advertising and marketing campaigns can make a promise, but the customers’ experience with your brand needs to deliver on that promise. You must be transparent with your customers and genuine in your messaging.
Secondly, you have to plan a fully integrated campaign. You can’t just do one thing and think it will build your brand, especially not in the landscape today. It takes a combination of efforts to develop your brand, that may include traditional media, digital media or other campaign options. But you have to think of your branding as an investment into your business that will pay dividends through the increased visibility and awareness of who you are and what you can offer.
What Is the Biggest Mistake You See Companies Make in Branding?
HE: Not having a strategy and thinking that their logo (or brochure or website) alone is their brand. A brand is more than a logo. It’s the full compilation of experiences that a consumer has with and about your company’s product or service. It is an emotion behind what someone feels, sees and thinks about you when they interact with your company at any level and at every touchpoint.
Because of this, you need to integrate your branding throughout every aspect of your business. It’s there in how you answer your phones, what you wear in your store, the fixtures in your building. It’s your distribution strategy, your packaging, your email signatures, your employees and how they are empowered to serve your customers – the list goes on and on. Consistency and meaningful application and integration of your branding is of paramount importance.
Find the Help You Need for Your Branding
At JFG, we’ve helped build brands large and small, right here in Western New York and all around the world. With our Brand Fitz process, we can help your company understand the marketplace and develop your brand and branding strategy to help grow your business and foster your success. Learn how we can help you with branding today. Fill out a form online now or call Heide at 716.433.7688, ext. 102.
Bringing with him more than a decade of experience in traditional and online news media, digital marketing and content production experience, Ryan Yaeger is the copywriter and digital content strategist at J. Fitzgerald Group. When not busy wordsmithing at his proverbial word anvil or working on client SEO, you can find him testing new board games or cheering for the Bills or Sabres.